COP26: An army of unsung heroes is helping to give climate summit the best chance of success – Angus Robertson MSP

The United Nations COP26 conference is now underway in Glasgow, and Scotland as a whole is playing a key role in supporting the climate change gathering.

By Angus Robertson
Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 4:55 am
Leigh Baxter is one of around 1,000 volunteers helping at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26, in Glasgow (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)
Leigh Baxter is one of around 1,000 volunteers helping at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26, in Glasgow (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)

Many of the 25,000 world leaders, delegates, negotiators, activists and other participants are actually staying elsewhere in Scotland and travelling every day to Glasgow, where the conference Blue Zone includes five huge halls in the Scottish Exhibition Centre, the Hydro arena and the 3,000-seater Armadillo.

Directly on the opposite side of the river Clyde is the conference Green Zone, which is open for public attendees, and a wide range of events are taking place at the Scottish Science Centre at the heart of the area.Accommodation is at such a premium that hotels in Edinburgh, St Andrews, Perthshire and across Central Scotland are providing rooms, in addition to hotels in the host city. Even two large passenger vessels are berthed on the Clyde for COP26 staff.

Much of the attention at the climate change conference is naturally falling on important participants like President Joe Biden and other world leaders, as well as environmental campaigners like Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been highlighting the importance of indigenous peoples and partner nations in the Global South like Malawi. Regardless of where we come from, it is critical that an agreement is reached at Glasgow so that global warming is kept within the 1.5-degree limit before irreversible damage is done to the global ecosystem.

Behind the scenes at COP26, there is a large army of people who are working in under-reported roles to make the conference function. They are ensuring that attendees are being hosted, fed, transported and protected.

On security for the event, Police Scotland has been augmented by forces across the UK, United Nations’ security officers and the personal protection details of world leaders. This kind of domestic and international co-operation is standard, as I personally witnessed when I was in Oslo a few years ago, at the same time as Barack Obama, and saw Swedish police in the Norwegian capital supporting their neighbours.

The conference burden falls especially on the diplomats and officials from the UN and its member states who will try and land a deal that we hope everyone will sign up to and will actually deliver the agreement that the world requires.

However, without the caterers, cleaners, drivers and event administrators, there would be no chance of success. Similarly the unsung work that has gone on across governments and authorities has been immense. This has been led by the UN at a global level, while the UK and Scottish governments both have significant responsibilities in ensuring the success of the conference, as does Glasgow City Council.

Putting on a conference the magnitude of COP26 is no easy feat. Often, the lion’s share of the work is done by those who don’t get to take a curtain call or, in Glasgow’s case, announce achievements to global news outlets. So, from Glasgow City Council to the United Nations and all layers of government and organisation in-between, they all deserve our very best wishes.

Hopefully the decisions being made at COP26 will match the hospitality being offered by Glasgow and Scotland as a whole and the hopes of people around the world.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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